Blue-chip stocks drove the market higher Thursday, notching a third straight session of record highs despite a shaky day in Southeast Asia that jostled confidence in that region’s fragile recovery.
The Dow Jones industrial average overcame some early profit-taking for the second day in a row, erasing a 76-point deficit before closing 55.05 higher at 8,369.60. The Dow, which before Tuesday hadn’t set a record in six months, has now closed at new highs for three consecutive sessions.
Among other popular measures, the Standard & Poor’s 500 index and the New York Stock Exchange composite index both closed at new highs for the seventh time in nine sessions.
“There’s a lot of fear out there on the part of portfolio managers who do have some cash,” said Bill Meehan, chief market analyst for Cantor Fitzgerald. “Whenever you have a rally, it tends to snowball as portfolio managers grow afraid of missing their benchmarks.”
Advancing issues barely outnumbered decliners on the New York Stock Exchange, while decliners finished with a small lead in Nasdaq trading. NYSE volume totaled 611.48 million shares, up slightly from Wednesday’s pace, but still well below the hectic pace of recent weeks.
Some of the stocks that moved substantially or traded heavily Thursday:
Morgan Stanley Dean Witter Discover, up 2-1/2 at 63-15/16.
The financial services conglomerate plans to buy back up to $3 billion of its stock, equivalent to about 8 percent of the company’s shares outstanding at current market prices.
America Online, up 2-1/2 at 117.
The online service’s stock extended this week’s rally, which has been fueled by Monday’s announcement of a rate hike for AOL network usage and late report of better-than-expected profits.
Nokia class A, up 8-15/16 at 91-11/16.
The Finnish manufacturer of mobile telephones reported a 1997 profit of about $1.55 billion, meeting expectations. Nokia also raised its dividend nearly 150 percent and reiterated its forecast of between 25 percent and 35 percent earnings growth for 1998.
Informix, up 1-7/16 at 8-13/16.
The database software company posted an unexpected profit for the fourth-quarter. Informix said late Wednesday the results were bolstered by its restructuring plan, tighter control over expenses and an increase in sales over third-quarter levels.
SyQuest Technology, down 3/4 at 2-9/16.
The disk-drive maker reported a loss of $36.8 million for the final three months of 1997. SyQuest said late Wednesday its results were weighed down by start-up costs and higher advertising expenses related to the launch of its one-gigabyte SparQ product.